My firstborn is diagnosed with autism. I think I get it now, and all I feel is relief that the school will help him, and hope that a medical diagnosis will give him greater access to more intervention and treatment.
As he is my firstborn, he is the normal one. As an infant, he had to wear handcovers longer than most babies, because he would try to pull his skin off of his face, and would make welts down his nose and cheeks. Probably he was desperate for sensation. I held him a lot, and kept him moving. He was addicted to rocking and had to be broken of it at nine months, because he was too heavy and too big, and I could not do it any longer. He hated vacuuming noises so much that I used a handheld carpet sweeper, daily, and had his grandmother take him outside on vacuuming days. He would cry if he heard the noise coming from any other house.
He would not say my name or ¨mommy¨ until he was closer to three. He would say the names of others, just not me, and he would avoid looking at me for the longest time. He would not throw a ball, until he was nearly out of the toddler years. In preschool, if he did not have something in his hands, at circle or music time, he would throw himself on the floor and scream and roll around, in the middle of the circle. Quite disruptive. The teachers opened up the school on off days and let him try all the toys, and then he was not so frustrated and distracted. He ran off, and I got him a leashed backpack puppy.
He laughed at all the wrong moments, displaying an alarming lack of empathy, and his father would lash out at him in response. As if you can slap empathy into a child. His grandmother taught him to throw things at me and laugh. Sticks, small rocks. He was enthusiastic, a parrot. He was desperate to please, but when his father told him to beat his brother or himself, he resisted and cried in the most heartbreaking way, and this agonized cry always alerted me to the situation, enabling me to put a stop to it. Despite his difficulty in comprehending the pain of others, he was a sweet child, very affectionate, always ready to sit in a lap, and indeed, at six, he will sit in anyone’s lap, whether he knows them or not. Which has become disturbing, to realize he is so trusting and vulnerable.
He has never felt pain properly. He would fall and bump his head regularly in the first eighteen months, huge knots on the forehead were the norm for him, and he rarely cried about it. Currently he has what looks like road rash on his elbow, and he has no idea how or where he got it. A child pulled him around a playground on rubber tiles when he was four, and took the first layer of skin off of his back, and he was laughing the entire time, which was the teachers excuse for allowing such a thing to happen right in front of her. He has asked other children to jump on him, bounce on him, punch him, and it has no negative effect, he just wants the sensation. He will forget to tell me he has a laceration, because it does not bother him. He scratches his bug bites until they weep blood and become sores, because he can feel the itch to scratch, but not the pain that signals it is time to stop scratching.
When his little brother grew older, I thought he was superhuman, as he hardly ever fell down, could jump and climb, and sit upright at a younger age. It did not occur to me that my oldest was abnormal, until he was five and the doctor diagnosed him with Sensory Processing Disorder and noted his muscle development was delayed. Then a lightbulb went off, my other children were not superhuman, my oldest was the different one. I have always liked children like him, in the daycares, waiting rooms, classrooms, I am drawn to them and they to me. Never realizing that I was picking out children who were different from the others. They just seemed more normal, more familiar, more like my own firstborn. The child who set the standard of normal in my perception.